Monument Honours Assistance Dogs
by Devon Wilkins
Scurling bagpipes, faithful assistance dogs, beaming assistance dog partners, proud trainers, awe-struck puppy raisers, and eager assistance dogs in training. What a procession we made as we walked from the conservation authority, across the street, and down the steep hill into Beautiful Joe Park! Pride, gratitude, and admiration tugged at our heartstrings as we prepared to witness the unveiling of the Ron Brown monument to assistance dogs. Ron Brown was the first Executive Director of the Lions Foundation, a facility in Oakville, Ontario which trains guide, hearing, and service dogs.
Plans for this day were first announced two and a half years earlier during the unveiling of a similar monument to Sirius, and other dogs who had made the supreme sacrifice during the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. Since that day, volunteers had worked feverishly to raise funds for the project, design and build the monument, and get in contact with those to whom this day would be particularly meaningful.
Beautiful Jo Park, located in Meaford, Ontario, Canada, is fast becoming an important venue honouring a number of groups of animals and people who interact outstandingly for special purposes, and for the betterment of mankind's living environment. Beautiful Jo was an Airedale, raised in Meaford, who fell victim to an abusive master. As a pup, Beautiful Joe had his ears and tail chopped off. Fortunately, he was rescued at a young age, and taken care of by the Moore family, descendants of whom still occupy the original property. The dog was later immortalized in a book by Margaret Marshall Saunders. In 1963, the town of Meaford donated 8.5 acres of land for the creation of Beautiful Joe Park.
When those who had participated in the procession had taken their seats, the audience heard greetings from the mayors of both Meaford and Owen Sound, as well as from several leaders of the assistance dog movement in Canada. Training programs represented included the Lions Foundation, Canadian Guide Dogs for The Blind, and C.O.P.E.-Canine Opportunity, People Empowerment, a small service dog program based in New Lowell, Ontario. The audience also heard congratulatory remarks from representatives of Guide Dog Users of Canada, the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners, and The Harness, a magazine for people who use assistance dogs.
Before the ribbon was officially cut, project leader Gunter Neumann explained that the monument was built in the shape of a semi-circle with flowers in the middle. On one side, the stonework is in the shape of a paw. On the other, it is in the shape of a hand.
When the formal ceremony was over, and just prior to lunch, spectators were both entertained and educated as they watched demonstrations of the tasks performed by guide, hearing, and service dogs.
The public is welcome to visit Beautiful Joe Park any time to pay homage to the dogs that have been honoured there. Meanwhile, members of the Beautiful Joe Heritage Society will busy themselves with future endeavours, which may some day include an animal hall of fame.
The society's contact information is as follows:
The Beautiful Joe Heritage Society
16 Trowbridge Street West
P. O. Box 4836
Meaford, Ontario, Canada
Phone: (519) 538-5895
Fax: (519) 538-4291
Web site: www.beautifuljoe.org
Reprinted with permission from the author, Devon Wilkins of The Harness, www.theharness.ca